God and Self

He who should come after me must deny himself, carry his own cross, and follow me.” (Mark 8:34).

There is a certain tendency in some circles of Christian America where Christ’s mandate to self-deny is taken to an unhealthy and embarrassing extreme.  Sitting in some church services and listening to self-deprecating songs and sermons sometimes gives off the impression that even the church has lost faith in humanity.   Maybe it is a little bit of misguidedness and ignorance, not petulant pessimism.  No one is postulating the 11th Commandment admonishing us to discard humanity.

Christ advocating for self-denial is not the same as self-hatred.  The Biblical tradition holds an attractive assessment of the self: “love your neighbor as yourself.”  So now we are confronted by the intemperate rebel Christ with a gut-wrenching proposition that we ought to abandon the self in order to be true followers?  Are we really to engage in scrupulous self-hatred, a la fashion of the self-mutilating monks of yesteryears who whip bloodied themselves to a pulp?  The devil hates context.  If we don’t read between the lines we could make the Bible say whatever whim and craziness we want to.

More likely Jesus is admonishing us to forsake the disordered self, the malicious self, the arrogant self.   Not the self per se.  The world is full to the brim of self-aggrandizement figures and projects, many obtusely detrimental to the well being of the human race. God displacement and marginalization occurs at all levels in order to magnify humanity rather than God.  Everybody worships something.  Some have stubbornly decided that we, rather than God, ought to be the center and energy that should drive the world.  That is precisely the kind of self that Christ is asking us to deny.

God desires our full selves and nothing short.  It is only with complete and orderly selves that we are able to serve Christ and bring to humanity the nurturing and healing qualities that enhance living.  God created the body and rendered it “good” (Genesis 1).  As an instrument for goodness and reconciliation, the human self is God’s investment to push forward the plan of demolishing the anti-creation and dehumanizing forces that destroy us.

Must we abandon the self then?  Yes.  But it is the self that wants to hurt, murder, rape, steal, lie, and fornicate that ought to be relinquished and transformed.  The true self in conformity with God’s will is the one that makes us truly human.


Jesus is US

Perhaps Jesus isn’t so appealing these days because of what we have done to him.  We have turned Jesus into a pet, a manageable creature, predictable and tame.  It is not Jesus as our God that holds the widest appeal, but Jesus as our buddy, our Santa Claus, our talisman to keep danger at bay, a toy to thrill us and entertain us.

Why, such characterizations are totally safe, non-threatening, so user-friendly.   Can you imagine Jesus as a judge, a warrior, a lion, a whip-wielding rebel violently prosecuting injustice?  God forbid!  Jesus the meek and humble Lamb.  The baby in the manger.  Mary’s Little Boy.  That’s the Jesus we can relate to and are ready to embrace and cry over his shoulder.  Fuzzy stuffed animal Jesus.  Gimme Marshmallow Man Jesus.  Candy Man Sugar Daddy Christ.  Let him pamper me until I become so comfortable that my religion poses no more challenges, but only rewards.

Alpha Males and Omega Dudes

One of our most enduring narratives in American mythology is this notion of the Alpha Male.   The Alpha male is the preeminent, dominant, ideal, and high achieving sex symbol guy that is the prototype of everything we desire and who is able to embody our most cherished beliefs about what constitutes the good life.  As for polar opposites it would be a disservice to speak of the Alpha without reference to its contrary, the undesirable and low status Omega dude.

We want our guys on the right side of the ledger: as profit, asset, credit, and equity.  If we can’t find him, well, we might as well invent him and endow him with those traits that we covet for ourselves but we are too shy to admit.  So goes the legend of the invincible superheros larger than life who fill our screens and films and vicariously accomplish the impossible tasks of saving the world, the nuclear codes, common sense, beautiful women, and in the process, winning accolades and adulation right and left.

Those other guys at the end of the line are entirely disposable, thank you very much.  Losers can stay at the bottom of the lader as a reminder for us kings at the top that descending and the lower evolutionary chain doesn’t fit our agendas and egos and do not serve our best interests and therefore, those little dudes are examples of what we civilized and polished guys ought never to do.  It is a survival of the fittest world.  Eat or get eaten.   Be strong, be rich, score and get laid at every opportunity, grab and be selfish, set up your throne and have the slaves fetch you what is due to you.  The world is better served by discriminating, dividing, and conquering.  To hell with weakness and wimps and second and last places.  Real men don’t shed tears.  The world was made for top guns, pumped up muscles, and Hollywood looks.

Christianity didn’t start from a position of strength.  The guy who got the ball rolling got himself executed as a seditious rebel.  The thing we don’t say in our status saturated society about such guys is that, “oh, well, he was a nice, accomplished fellow after all.  He truly was up to something good.”  They would not say those things back then, and surely nobody would say those things now about apparent losers.   Winding up in death row is never an item you want to list on your resume.  We don’t have Nobel prizes for having been fried by lethal injection.  Because he was rejected as the Messiah of Israel Jesus must have felt that his vocation had all been a pipe dream, a mirage, an illusion of a defeated man who tried his best but was nevertheless misguided.  But was that Jesus’ actual reaction?

Winding up in a position of weakness was all part of the plan.  Jesus went against the grain of everything his society held dear and eschew with contempt.  They were looking for a conquering Messiah.  He gave them a crucified one.  They were looking for a prince in shining armor, he presented himself as a naked lamb bleeding on his march to the slaughter.

I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last
Revelation 22:13

Christ can hold both roles in tension and resolve their contradictions. First and last are opposite extremes.  But Jesus reconciles them.  He shows us that strength can derive from weakness, chaos, and death.   Christ came out as a winner because he was willing to display weakness and vulnerability.  The dignity of our humanity does not always lie in the infallible execution of our strengths, wits, and industry, but also in our ability to self-abase and self-sacrifice for the sake of a greater good.  Christ is the ultimate Alpha Male precisely because he assumed the role of victim, sacrifice, and lostness.  Christ models for us how the Alpha male can also be an Omega.  By adopting the least favorable strategy, he managed to be tops.   An invincible warrior is not always the best one because he might lack sympathy.  He has never lost.  He has never cried.  Jesus didn’t do that.  He did cry, and he did suffer.  He can sympathize and feel our anguish.  The wild lion of the jungle is not anybody’s friend.  But the lion who is like a lamb is the kind of character that is approachable, loveable, and accessible.






Barbie World

Barbie complex.  Girls have never seem more glamorous straight out of the shiny retail box.  Can somebody be that pretty and be so unreal?  The original Barbara didn’t think so.  Her quest at self-promotion in the different permutations of Barbie doll paid off for her, quite handsomely.  After gazillions of sales and propaganda the genie is out of the bottle.  Barbie is with us to stay.  She is become one of the guys.  She is us.  Or rather I should I say, Barbie has become the prototypical person whose capital resides in mere looks, sex appeal, and a seemingly perfect anatomical proportions.  Qualities that we all covet.

Many years ago the pop group Aqua had the audacity to glorify Barbie in song.  I remember little girls at parties dancing to the tune and brandishing their Barbie dolls, in the hopes perhaps that they too one day might have a share in Barbie world.  Today when I played that song on YouTube I was perturbed by an eery feeling:

I am Barbie girl, in a Barbie World

Life is plastic, it’s fantastic

You can brush my hair,

Undress me anywhere, your imagination

Life is your creation

I am blonde bimbo girl in the fantasy world

Dress me up, make me tight, I am your dolly

I am bothered by the idea of life as plastic or by the notion of exploitation.  One of the oldest plots in life goes like this:  boy meets girl.  Boy and girl fall in love.  Boy and girl live happily ever after.  Hmmm.  There are bound to be intrusions nevertheless.  Boogeymen interject all the time.  The happily- ever- after adverbial phrase can mean that so long as you downgrade to the level of a toy, then my happiness is going to be secured.  So let’s keep it that way.  Today I think we are in denial about this form of human predation and slavery.  People being used and letting themselves be abused by a system and ethos that wants to squeeze every ounce of pretty in the name of control, capital, and concupiscence.  Once your goods are milked out and away, then off you go to the slaugheter.

We aren’t bothered my mere existence as long as you can accomplish the grand achievement of being pretty.   If you failed school and your resume is rather mediocre than stellar, well, the deficiency can be offset by a beauty investment.  Those that have it as a natural endowment have it made and need do nothing except to throw it out there in the wild for the world to be shocked and awed.  Just let the lion out of the cage and the sheer force and weight of beauty will take over as sure as gravity keeps your wig glued to your scalp. Those of us who are challenged by a lack of aesthetics are forced to work overtime just to peruse a piece of the beauty pie even if we never get to taste it.

American society values pretty girls, glitz, and glitter.  We forgive beautiful and grant them all the breaks, bonuses, and perks.  Beauty gets the biggest camera lens, the best angle, the most clicks, and the largest social media following.  The faintest presence of beauty can easily overcome the worst case of boredom and uninspired drudgery.  When beauty beckons us, it is damn hard to resist its allure and promise.

Yet under closer inspection I can’t do nothing but shake myself off from Barbie’s fantasy world.  Beauty of the Barbie variety is one of those perpetual illusions that have us enthralled and engaged in the multibillion dollar industries whose pockets are well lined up to our thirst and hunger for mere good looks.  The chain that makes up beauty has links made of pride.  Pride is a hard thing to break but as long as the going gets groovy we are going to keep swinging at it.

Beauty is not all that bad and I don’t believe that it is all confined to the eye of the beholder.  Beauty does exist out there independent of the beholder.  Perhaps the reality of its existence is a witness to the Creator who designated his craftmanship as all “very good” (Genesis 1-2).  Things are good because they have a function:  procreation of life and sustainability as well as sources of inspiration to drive us to artistic and creative enterprises.  Beauty shows us the side of God dealing with novelty, imagination, and industrious energy.

But beauty like many good things in life has been corrupted.  It has become its own good and end, a means to serve and save ourselves, our lusts, our pride, our greed, and our perpetual reach to abuse and manipulate others.  Beauty has become an idol for the aggrandizement, not of God, but of the self.  Until we knock down the Bimbo god and demote it to its proper place, the true God will never be honored in the ways that count for a meaningful and purposeful kind of existence.  Let beauty be, but let’s direct it in the way of humaneness, of goodness, and of loving. That is God’s world. It surely beats the plastic world of Barbie.

Teach With Gusto

I am a licensed teacher in my home state Colorado.  I have spent most of my working adult years working with students in different settings.  Everybody is a teacher in some way, even if you don’t get compensated.  The stuff below is but a few talking points of what I think it means to be an educator in America in this time and place.

DISCLAIMER: My list here is fairly subjective and stems from the things I have observed and learned while working with kids of all ages.  I am not trying to set scientific data, nor craft a thesis, nor telling you what to believe about education.  Take it or leave it for what is worth.

  1. Once upon a time I arrived upon the world naked and screaming, in need of a mother, a diaper, and a good teacher
  2. The most fundamental plot in life: boy meets girl.  boy and girl fall in love.  Boy and girl live happily ever after.  The second most fundamental plot:  Human becomes teacher, student meets teacher.  Student and teacher accuse each other of ignorance and indifference.  A committeee gets set up after school hours to study the phonetic components of the words “ignorance” and “indiference.”
  3. Most kids are teachable
  4. Kids will learn best when you create the optimal conditions for learning.  One of those conditions is having plenty enthusiasm and showing it.
  5. Many teaching and learning problems are due to character flaws, not intellectual or cognitive incapacity.  You will go astray if you think that teaching is all about filling heads with knowledge.  Kids are not Dixie cups!  Teaching is more like kindling flames (so Socrates).  Hopefully you will succeed at this and the fire gets passed around to contribute something worthwhile in this world of pain and suffering.
  6. If the problems in education were due to lack of money, those problems would have been solved in the time before continents drifted.  There is no way that the most advanced and resourceful nation in the history of the world (i.e. the US of A) is unable to fund needy schools and continue to pay teachers slave wages while Jose Pro Football’s paycheck resembles a foreign phone number.  The problem is not inability, but unwillingness on the part of the bureaucrats who would rather spend the money elsewhere.
  7. Politicians are the least qualified to solve the educational conundrums that plague us now.  They don’t understand teachers and teaching, let alone the students who are served daily by loving and sacrificial teachers who give much and receive very little in terms of compensation and recognition.
  8. Some problems in education also stem from weak leadership in the schools, districts, boards, etc.  The ignorance and indifference found in the much essential parental element also does little to alleviate the ailments of poor performance and zero achievement.
  9. If inspiring students to learn was so essential a part of education I wonder  why teaching prep programs don’t offer more inspirational speech courses.  Teachers don’t have to inspire you.  By signing up to school you and your parents are explicitly giving consent to learn, stay put, be responsible, respect those in authority, return your homework, etc.  Otherwise anything goes and classrooms degenerate into self-focused groups that demand that teachers and administrators cater to their agendas, fancies, whims, and self-esteem.  The role of teachers is limited.  They are not to be your psychologist, clown, cheerleader, parent, and God forbid, your boyfriend and girlfriend.
  10. Defining a school by its sports programs is like defining them by ice cream; you can only keep people motivated as long as you keep the ice cream cold and hard while waiting to sell it.  Nothing wrong with sports, but they are not to be at the top of a school’s agenda.
  11. Standardized testing.  A tool of bureaucrats to perpetuate a pre-set notion of what students ought to know and what teachers ought to do.  Like bureacrats knew better!
  12. Being a teacher is like working in a cemetery: There are people under you who are not inclined to listen
  13. This is an extension of twelve.  Perhaps the richest places in the planet are found in cemeteries.  Lots of untapped potential has gone there, never to return and make a difference in the world where it counts.  By this I am saying that talent is nothing without due effort and discipline.
  14.  As Plato says, when you are drowning you desperately in need of oxygen.  If we as a society don’t value education and appreciate teachers and learners, very little effective teaching and learning will happen.
  15. Being a teacher feels sometimes like giving somebody a haircut.  You are furiously cutting away and trying your best to give your customers a fine look while the subject of your task sits there passively, daydreaming, talking and staring at the phone, and wishing that you are soon done so that she can get on with the REAL business of living.  Haircuts are messy and so we want to avoid the inconvenience as much as possible.
  16. Students can’t follow a parked car.  Get moving.  You are it. You are the greatest resource students have, not Google, Facebook,  and Wikipedia. You are The leader and CEO of your classroom, not the principal, not the parents, and absolutely not the kids.  You set the tone of the classroom.
  17. Ocassionally your job will feel like you have to swap a heavily crapped diaper from an uncooperative, belligerent soiled brat.  He knows it and he is testing you and as a bonus will gleefully mock that you are disgusted by the smell of his disorderly conduct.  All I can say it hang tough my friend.  Say your prayers and learn to deploy some graceful creativity, solo and in cooperation with your fellow instructionistas.  You are gonna need it.
  18. Teaching and learning is more than a science.  You have to master the artistic component of it too.  After determining your parameters you must strike forward into defining and refining your teaching craft.  It won’t do to have it all nailed down to a strict science.  Go beyond the ABC’s because the alphabet has 24 letters.
  19. Some educators out there carry a lot of weight merely by the sheer strength of their charisma,  imposing presence and voice, eloquent speeches, theatrics, antics, gimmicks, and the use (or abuse) of emotional/ psychological devices.  The right way to do education transcends those categories and it is entirely possible that Joe and Jane plain and simple can be successful if they adopt the best tools of the trade, learn to adapt to change, and value their own mission for the sake of changing lives.
  20. Really, do your planning and set out to teach.  What is going to happen if you absolve yourself from responsibility?  Zero, nada, negative balance, bad karma, the hot place of many religions (metaphorically), failing students and the perpetuation of the status quo that says that all movement and striving for reform is fatal, futile, irremediable and irreversible.  I have heard this since the time dogs could speak and write.  Just hang out long enough in the negative forums located in the lounge and the cynical commentariat in cyberspace and I promise you will take cognizance of the bitter and angry ranting and raving that rages there
  21. May the force be with you and don’t forget to do your teaching with gusto

Why Jesus is not a religion

Once upon a time I quit drinking, beating up my wife, and got religion instead.

For most people in America the plot I am outlining points to the phenomenon of giving up some obvious vice and replacing it with a couple of hours of sitting on a pew before an audience of sacred music singers and listening to a preacher rant and rave about everything that is wrong with the world and you.

Whatever the merits of such weekly exercise, it can not possible be the bottom line of everything that Jesus Christ stood for.  Jesus was not the founder of a new religion, which he designated as Christianity and rolled into a package of seven sacraments and ten hail Mary’s.  This is the caricature Hollywood enjoys promoting and ridiculing to the detriment of honest seekers.

Religion more or less is about the things I need to do to earn heaven, Nirvana, the 72 virgins, and avoid the hot temperature down there. In America therefore religion is about Sunday (or Saturday, or Ramadan) morning and my funeral.  If I consider myself civilized and well-mannered, I am not supposed to bring my religion to work, to school, or among polite company because all that stuff is a private matter of the heart.  I should keep it to myself and not impose it on any one out of respect for their dignity.  That is good religion, but it is not Christianity.  Christianity is demanding, sacrificial, and it entails telling others.  Therefore, if I am a sincere Christian, I do not have the option of keeping it all to myself.  The Founder has not left that option open.   When somebody finally discovers a vaccine against cancer and AIDS, I doubt she will keep it to herself.  Good news is supposed to  be passed around, not boxed in.  More of that anon.

The way we do politics and religion has a way of putting Christ at a disconnect.  I tire of hearing that Jesus isn’t about politics.   We want our Jesus and our State, solo and separate thank you very much.  The two shall not never intermix.  So said Jesus:

“Give Caesar what is due to Caesar, and to God what is God’s.”

“My Kingdom is not of this world.”

Problem is Jesus wasn’t preaching  a separation of church and government, a la Thomas Jefferson. The idea of separation of church and state was popularized by Jefferson in a letter he addressed to a Baptist Association in Connecticut in 1802.  The Constitution does say that government ought not to establish a national church, as England and other countries had done.  Everyone is free to pick or refuse to worship as they like.   From this notion there has emerged the massive schemes and rhetoric that one ought to keep Christ out of government, schools, law courts and the like.  Christ has no bearing there because these institutions are trying to do things that are practical, whereas Christ is concerned with the concerns of the soul and what happens to you after you die.

Schools and government are trying to educate and order people’s affairs or minds or whatever.  But that is exactly what Christ intends to do: to educate people, to bring order into a disordered world, to usher justice where injustice prevails, and to arrange people’s affairs!  Jesus is very political.  That his kingdom is not of this world means that it is of a different kind.  He is not denying he has a kingdom, but exactly the opposite!  Giving Caesar what is of Caesar can hardly mean that one ought to keep religion out of politics whereas the affairs of the church are to be kept in designated sacred buildings for a few hours a week, and the two shall never cross.

But theocracy is a nasty word.  It conjures up images of fiery inquisitions, torture wheels, self-righteous prigs burning heretics at the stake, and wars and crusades on infidels who deserve punishment for not conforming to my holier-than-thou religious dogmas.  History provides plenty witness of the hideous effects of church and state getting in bed.  Hardly anybody I knows thinks that is a noble form of fornication that we ought to endorse.  When the church gets political power, it normally goes up its head.  A head full of power sometimes means a heart hollow, stripped of compassion and love.  The German church thought it was getting into a good deal when it decided to align itself with the Führer.  Wrong headed church.  Because Mr. Mustache had zero intentions to advanced the Gospel of love and kindness on behest of the church.  He had his own agenda of hate and genocide and quite eagerly he recruited the church in his insane policy of mass destruction and chaos, no the other way around.

Power is not wrong in and of itself.  We need power to keep things in check.  The alternative is anarchy and the predation of the weak by the strong.  God won’t endorse that kind of world.  So what of Jesus then?  Is he simply to be a shepherd of the heart and the comforter of our souls for when we die?  No, no, that is a very domesticated Jesus, a very non-political Jesus who has no bearing on social life or the affairs of nations.  That is the Jesus of Sunday school, old women’s convents, and people dying with a bad conscience.  Jesus refuses to be strapped into that kind of straight jacket.  Meek and mild Jesus is a very dangerous man if we allow him to strip the blindfolds that make us not see his real power.  However, the world is not yet ready to have that kind of Jesus.  We don’t want the Jesus of the Apocalypse, the powerful roaring lion, sword clad Jesus who judges and slays the unrighteous.  We want our Jesus low profile, lamb-like, manageable, gentle, non-political, non-threatening.   That would be  a Jesus we can control.  And religion is all about us having control.  Christ on the other hand, is to rule the nations (Psalm 2).

















Inglorious Singles

Pack of raveous wolves.  Google images 2017

Singleness can be a  hazardous enterprise.   Singles live less than marrieds.  They get sick more often and are less likely to recover sooner. Singles tend to drive faster, engage in risky behaviors, and die from drug overdoses at a rate higher than those in relationships.  Marrieds will party until it is time to go to work and get the kids to school.  Singles however, will party until someone gets pregnant, arrested, or assaulted.

The great narrative of human life in this speck of blue dust is that one ought to get hinged, preferably with someone we fall in love.  Then the march is on to form a family with this significant other, own a home, a dog, a car, and retire and play golf in perpetual bliss.

One vastly overstated and popular stigma tagged against singles is that they are lost, misguided, and they don’t know what they want.  Being at the height of their sexual powers they are more likely than not to engage in borderline and off the wall sexual behavior.  Single playboys and playgirls lack the conformity and uniformity that a predictable family setting offers.   And the longer they stay single, the worse their prospects and those of society.  The rest of us who are settled and responsible often feel we have to subsidize (i. e paying higher car insurance rates) the immaturity and stupidity of many a singles who play it wild and very loco .  Get a life.  Get married.  If single doesn’t get you to a point of stability and coolheadedness, it will land you in prison, lulu land, and endless cynicism.  So goes the endless warnings.

I’ve painted this portrayal with a broad brush.  Over simplifications of dry and boring demographic data doesn’t cut it for those outside the mold.  I doubt most singles are pirates engaged in crusades of predation, rape, pillage, and plunder.  Maybe it is true that having few and weak social bonds makes you susceptible to living on the edge, predisposed to violence, drug abuse, and  reckless jerk behavior.  Most people dislike pirates for that reason.  But piracy isn’t our sole concern.  We have clowns to deal with whose principal mischief is not taking life seriously.  Their relationships are as superficial as the makeup plastered on their faces.  Everything is a joke.  Their job is a joke. Their loved ones are a joke. They laugh when approached with a serious matter, an indication that they care little about you, and what you have to say.  They laugh at you, at your weaknesses, your misfortunes,and your dignity.  They will laugh while inappropriately farting and defecating all while denying it and blaming it on you (hence the expression: are you sh–ing me!!!, you are full of s-it, f-ck that s-it).  Their life mission can be summed up by the thrill and thirst for endless entertainment and little responsibility.

Playboys, pirates, and clowns. All inglorious in their own malignant way.  Have they any hope?  First of all. Give up the tendency to label people as in the fashion where a casual predisposition is mistaken for character.  Most of us, if pushed against the wall, will portray major flaws in character and patterns of behavior that can be detrimental under certain conditions (hanging out at the barber shop will probably get you a haircut and touring the local whore house will do little for your virtue).  Deeply ingrained patterns of sinfulness don’t develop overnight.  No one simply leaps out the uterus being a world-class douchbag or a b–ch. Unless you have been pirating most of your life, you could hardly be said to be beyond the pale, to the extent you are eligible as a recruit in ISIS.  What you need perhaps is an attitude adjustment,  wise, mature company, psychiatric intervention, or regular spiritual disciplines of Bible reading and prayer and church attendance.  Strolling out at the bar never fashioned saints and Nobel laureates.

Second of all. WE ARE our brothers keepers.  When we see people in trouble, do we lash out in judgment or try to help?  Cain had a bone to pick with his brother.  Rather than sort it all out he allowed resentment to grow and aggravate.  His unchecked resentment boosted his hatred and his hatred open the gateways of fratricide.  The more we judge others for their misconduct or some grievance, real or imagined, the more we will hate them.  And hate, my friend, has zero redeeming qualities.  Hate will only seek to even the score, to hurt, and to alienate.  Help your single friend or acquaintance in trouble.  Maybe your help has not been solicited or is not welcomed.  If it is not solicited, ask.  The answer will always be no if you don’t ask.  If it is not welcomed, well, leave to God in prayer, always asking for mercy and grace.  You can win many battles on your knees than you could do by ranting and raving and berating your fellow troubled humans.

Love always wins battles.  Hate never does.











Saint Nasty: Despicable Christians in the Age of Sex

Once upon a time I violated a fellow Christian last night.   Well, nearly, if I count all the times I harbored ill will to those whose lips profess Christ.

Forgive the hyperbole but I am attempting here to point out that most of us haven’t quite achieve sainthood status.  Pope Francis hasn’t more than one block open for the next in line saint-to-be.  Such are a rarity, with Mother Theresa being the last canonized saint in the past one thousand days.

Why are Christians nasty and capable of unleashing devastation?  One common answer is that those despicable characters were not real believers.  They are fake as a  three-dollar bill.  After all Jesus said:  “you will know them by their fruit.’  Yes of course, the wolves in sheep’s clothing are real, there’s no denying the reality.  But what about those who commit grave sins, crimes, and misdemeanors?  Are they saved?  Or are they as irremediable as the devil?

You are the Man

Christians are sinners.  We aren’t floating in the clouds playing harps to angelic audiences, mind you.  Perfection is still the prerogative of the divine, although the Bible hesitates to use that word. “I am not perfect, I am just trying.”  Problem is, Jesus told a crowd: “Be perfect, as your father in heaven is perfect.”  In other words, there is a standard that we ought to be striving for that meets certain benchmarks of what is acceptable to God.  Behavior matters. Ethics matters.  Saved by grace and forgiven isn’t an empty slogan devoid of moral demands.  It is not the case that I simply accept Jesus and from then on anything goes, I can do whatever I want.  I could rape, steal, cheat, and lie, and find myself with a clean slate the next dawn.  Correct? Yes and No.  Yes God forgives and yet the moral order of the universe and the powers that be won’t just let us get away with being unrelenting renegades.  God won’t have a universe run on the fuel of anarchy and chaos. There is a price to pay for deviancy and delinquency.  You probably will be forgiven, albeit in prison.

There is a certain brand of militant Christian who have taken up the mission to attack with vitriolic rage the bedroom activities of consenting adults.  And yet one is so surprised that the effort to defeat world hunger, achieving social justice in the world, and ending racial and wage discrimination in the work place isn’t tackled with the same zeal and enthusiasm and a sense of indignation. We would rather burn gay activists and sex workers at the stake (a la Torquemada), than press the purveyors of opression to halt injustice.  The latter are more pressing problems.  We can’t really do anything about the former. Consenting adults will ultimately follow their own devices even when admonished otherwise. How many churches and their flock are going to volunteer to police the hotels and penthouses of singles and marrieds to ensure their sexual purity isn’t being compromised?

Sexual ethics matter. We’ll be damned if we pollute our marriages and loyalties of our significant others.  People are cheating more than ever and Hollywood never tires with the never-ending romanticizing of adultery and fornication.  Yet down-to-earth common sense still says that faithfulness makes sense because it is the only fire-proof measure we have to preserve the dignity and integrity of the family.  Yet although there’s a sense in which human sexuality has been distorted, in another sense we still manage to behave like puritanical, self-righteous pricks when criticizing homosexuality, prostitution, and bisexuality.  Christians are eager to point their bony fingers here all the while casually divorcing their spouses and neglecting their children and then filing for a new marriage license the next day.   The Bible has about six admonitions against homosexuality and hundreds against heterosexuality.  So now, who needs the most supervision?

Whose sins did Christ target the most?  It wasn’t the sexual sinners.  It was towards the religious hypocrites of his day that Christ reserved his most scathing condemnation.  Don’t get me wrong. Sexual oddities and distortions are bad enough to deserve regulation and punishment.  Sexual abuse and perversion should never be tolerated in a civilized society and among polite company.  We must protect children and the vulnerable against predation from unscrupulous, sick individuals.

Yet there is a persistent unhealthy preoccupation with sexual issues, as though we wish that sex went away.  Sex isn’t going away.  If you are reading this, you are here because of it.   Sex is good.  Sex is God’s gift to humanity and it is insurance against extinction. We owe it to the puritans and other hysterical purists like Saint Augustine and the early Church Fathers the notion that sex is the root of evil and that all sin for that matter, stems from sex.  That is about 180 degrees wrong.  These guys were misguided and have misread the Bible. The root of all evil is pride.  Pride is the sin that shot satan out of heaven.  Pride exiled our first parents out of paradise.  Nasty doesn’t start with the organs below the belt.  It originates in the heart, in the warped will that puts self as supreme and every one else underfoot to be trodden and despised.












Bookshelf Christians: A Theology of the Book of Eli

I sat in my room the other night and viewed the Book of Eli, a film featuring Danzel Washington and Gary Oldman.  In this post-apocalyptic drama Eli (Washington) has been commissioned to preserve the Bible after an apparent world-wide attempt to destroy every copy of it.   In contrast, Carnegie (Oldman) wants to wrestle it away from Eli in order to put it to good use, like being able to control the weak and ignorant masses.   Albeit a mean and violent blind Samurai-like figure, Eli is the good guy presumably.  He is the opposite of  Carnegie and his henchmen who rule the wastelands on a policy of murder, rape, pillage, and plunder.  Eli saves the day and himself by taking the Bible west, which he has memorized, where it gets printed and put on a shelf.

Practical Christians want to change the world, even sometimes through the misguided means of coercion and violence.  We have been through this drama before: The Inquisition, the Salem Witch Hunts, the Crusades, and the wars and squabbles of religion of the past centuries.

Did these holy convulsions make the world a better place?  Nope.  A radical outcome once the sacred dust of contempt, violence, and discord settled was that the world as a whole and the powers that be no longer look up on the church for wisdom as to how to change the current mess we are in.  Correspondingly, many Christians have retreated to a form of quietism, a privatized secluded religion on the underground.  Bookshelf Christians I call them.  They happily contemplate their Bibles resting on a shelf and only casually if ever, entertain  the foggiest idea as to how, if ever, it is supposed to make the world a viable haven for humanity.  Bookshelf Christians domesticate Jesus and the Gospel by cutting off any input to the outside world.  They talk only to themselves in categories that only they can understand.  Like Eli, they are blind to the implications of the Bible towards the wider culture.   In the meanwhile, the God’s Holy Book continues to gather dust unabated.

The alternative is to have the righteous revolutionaries of Biblical morality launch a campaign of indignation with the aim of shoving Biblical principles down people’s throat. The Bible then becomes a tool for compelling  conformity.  It’s our way or the highway to hell. It doesn’t work.  It can’t work.  Jesus was a stranger to power politics. He didn’t attempt to Christianise the power structures of his day. He didn’t boycott sinners.  He didn’t practice censorship of the lost, the least, or the left-out.  His religion wasn’t about controlling the meek and the weak.  Religionistas Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, and John Hagee want to fight their enemies and if necessary, kill or hurl them in prison, all in the name of defending the Bible, praise God.  Contrast that with God’s humble servant, the man Christ who sacrificed his life for his enemies instead of casually blasting them to pieces.

We need a hybrid Christian.  People with the passion of both Carnegie and Eli, but whose means and ends to achieve justice in the world are at the polar opposite of oppression and violence.  Passivity won’t cut it.  The Bible isn’t going to grow legs any time soon by sitting on a bookshelf.  Employing coercion to get people saved or at least have them conform outwardly to Biblical morality will usually backfire.  Without aiming for  a transformation of the heart, the best we can do is fashion prolific, self-righteous pharisees whose use (and abuse ) of religion will make people want to rebel and look down on their inferiors. The victims of holy-than-thou characters normally end up crucified.  Jesus would have none of this.  We need balance.  We need passion and purpose without wielding the piercing sword of judgmentalism and self-righteousness.  Religion as dogma can be a weapon  for manipulation.   We must have God’s religion of love and the Spirit in order to experience true liberation, beauty, and due justice.










Schizophrenia Culture

Stark raving lunatics.  Suicidal, homicidal  maniacs.  Mass shooters.  White angry men out of touch with reality.  There is a whole cluster that schizophrenia as a medical condition might entail, but that is not what I mean here.

Rather I speak of the malady of having multiple voices.  Not the individual’s affinity to scan and tune in to audible vocal noises, mind you, but the collective phenomenon where so many people are talking, both in divergent and concordant ways.

Because of modern mass media and virtually instant communications, we posses the remarkable ability to put our message out there for the world to witness.  Today anybody with a phone and an internet connection is able to broadcast whatever their fancies prompt them to do so.

The voices compete with one another for allegiance.  The voice of reason tells us to be rational and logical and act according to predetermined outcomes.  The voice of discord and war dictates that we fight for our rights and decimate anyone and everything standing in the way.  Science’s voice says the world is all there is and we better get used to it before we conjure up pie in the sky that we can’t even begin to eat anyways.

The devil also speaks.  He has in the past. He spoke to Jesus in the wilderness temptation (Matthew 4).  His attempt at flattery and appealing to man’s lower instincts and ego exemplify his approach to undermining God’s good creation.

Then God speaks.  He spoke the universe into existence…… Genesis 1-2

Man didn’t find it convenient to listen to God’s word (Genesis 3) so he sent his Son.  The Son today speaks and  beckons us to discover our new vocation in order to return to our true humanity and destiny.

We must not allow the world to drown God’s voice.  Many voices misguide us, God’s voice alone stands as the signpost for discovering the only one meaningful and purposeful vocation for which we were made.

Can we make time to shut down the noise around us so we can hear the voice that ultimately matters?

Featured image: Credit Google 2016